Interstate 59 joins the largest city in Alabama, Birmingham, with Tuscaloosa to the west and Gadsden to the northeast. The portion of I-59 in Alabama is part of the 445-mile overall highway linking the New Orleans metropolitan area and the central gulf coast with Chattanooga and the Mid-Atlantic states via connections with Interstate 75 and 81. Interstate 59 shares 130.10 miles of pavement with Interstate 20 within the Heart of Dixie. The freeways cosign from Meridian, Mississippi to Birmingham International Airport (BHM).

Interstate 20-59 retain a rural character from Meridian, Mississippi to Tuscaloosa. Growth along the stretch between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham adds traffic as the two metropolitan areas expand toward one another. Therefore much of the 35 mile drive between Interstates 359 and 459 carries six lanes now. Within Birmingham, Interstates 20-59 serve Downtown Birmingham and interests to Huntsville and Nashville via Interstate 65 while Interstate 459 carries the bulk of bypassing traffic. The exchange with Interstate 65 northwest of Downtown, known locally as "Malfunction Junction" is one of the busiest in the entire state. An elevated viaduct emerges from the exchange east to U.S. 31 and the west end of U.S. 280 at the Red Mountain Expressway. This stretch will be rebuilt as part of a $450-million, four-year project. Work expands I-20 & 59 to ten overall lanes with a new system of ramps to and from Downtown and new flyovers added at I-65. The I-59 / I-20 Bridge Replacement Project ramps up by late 2016 or 2017 with a total shutdown of the freeway mainline so that crews can tear down the 1971-built viaducts.

East from Downtown Birmingham, Interstate 59 and 20 go their separate ways, with I-59 reducing to four lines despite its increasing role as a commuter route to Trussville. Northeast of Trussville however, the story is much different as a rustic nature overtakes the four-lane freeway to Gadsden and the Georgia state line. Some of the least traveled stretches of Interstate in the entire Heart of Dixie are located between Gadsden and Fort Payne.

22.3 miles of Interstate 59 opened in 1965 between Attalla and Collinsville (Exit 205).1

Interstate 59 Alabama Highway Guides


Interstate 59 scenes
22nd Street North southbound at the westbound on-ramp to Interstates 20 & 59. Drivers taking this ramp join the elevated freeway on the left side ahead of "Malfunction Junction". Photo taken 08/10/02.
Westbound Steele Station Road at the northbound on-ramp to Interstate 59 at Steele. Steele Station Road connects the freeway with U.S. 11 and Chandler Mountain via County Road 42 west from town. Photo taken 11/03/11.
19th Street east from Ensley becomes Bush Boulevard at the half diamond interchange with Interstates 20 & 59 in Birmingham. Photo taken 10/20/12.
Since Interstates 20 & 59 are already within the Birmingham city limits at the Bush Boulevard on-ramp, the control point of Downtown is used. Traffic from 20th Street and Avenue Y funnels into this ramp as well. Photo taken 10/20/12.

Sources:

  1. "61 Miles of Interstate Will Open During 1965." Times Daily (Florence, AL), May 11, 1965.


Photo Credits:

08/10/02, 11/03/11, 10/20/12 by AARoads

Connect with:
Interstate 20
Interstate 65
Interstate 359
Interstate 459
Interstate 759 - Gadsden Spur
U.S. 11

Page Updated 02-18-2016.